How important are human translators for beauty brands?
26/07/2023 by The Red Tree
As a beauty translator, what does your scope of work cover?
As a cultural consultant and beauty translator, I work with French and Spanish brands that want to grow their UK business. The translation and cultural consultancy projects I work on are varied in terms of product – recently I’ve worked on the UK marketing of haircare products, a hair regrowth inhibitor cream and anti-redness treatments.
A lot of my work involves translating French or Spanish digital and print marketing materials into English. For these I frequently provide a blend of copywriting and translation services, known as ‘transcreation’. The idea of transcreation is to find the sweet spot between a brand’s values and a message that resonates and builds trust specifically within a target market – giving international customers a local experience. My translations in this area relate to things like websites and social media, optimisation, look books and product descriptions – I’ve even been asked to come up with product names.
I often also translate press releases, labels and packaging as well as producing competitor reports in English about brands of interest operating in the French and Spanish markets.
In the age of platforms like Shopify or Instagram creating translations, why is it important to human translations over AI in beauty?
Beauty is all about standing out and building trust in a competitive market and I still think you ultimately need the human touch for that.
Neither AI nor machine translation can pull it out of the bag when you’re talking about text your brand relies on to convert. Translation is like copywriting in that way –
“words are chosen very carefully to make a customer in a specific market trust and ultimately fall in love with your product. You need thought and strategy behind the translation.”
For example, French beauty texts tend to be more science-y than their UK equivalents. It’s a cultural thing I’ve noticed! So I spend time simplifying French texts as well as translating them – machine translation wouldn’t understand it needed to do that. Machine translation can’t tell the difference between where an international English tone of voice is needed, or a causal, very local, full-of-puns type brand voice.
It’s great for giving you a steer but I wouldn’t go near automated translation for anything regulatory and or marketing centred. You’ll sacrifice a lot in terms of tone of voice, positioning, and messaging.
What learnings should beauty brands consider in communicating with a global audience on social media?
A lot depends on the brand. My daughter loves the American brands she sees on TikTok for example, so there would be no sense in adapting these to the UK when she’s buying into that American feel. But most brands are going to get much better engagement and reach if they communicate with their customers in their own language. This is about more than translation and covers everything from images, product features and benefits and the tone of the content itself – brands need to decide how far you want to take it without losing sight of the original brand identity.
Are there any beauty brands you would highlight that really do this well, or not so much?
I’m a fan of the nuxe_uk and embyolisseuk Insta accounts and I’m always impressed by La Roche Posay in terms of holding onto that coveted Frenchy-ness while also working hard to connect with English-speaking markets. I’m also interested in how Gen Z is reacting to European brands on TikTok. It’s a world away from the established French brands like Clarins.
What would be your opinion on a French brand communicating only in English?
I work into English rather than French but I would 100% say that your target audience will much prefer a product description in French. It shows effort on your part and is key to building trust. The assumption that ‘everyone speaks English’ is outdated. Consumers expect to be communicated with in their mother tongue.
If beauty brands are looking to prioritise spend on translations, what would you say is most important?
A good translator will help you work out how you can get the most value from translations. So when you translate a page on your website you can recycle the text into multiple social media posts or spin it into a video.
This article was written by Rhiannon Egerton, Creative Translator at Big Sky Translate.
Get in touch with Rhiannon here.
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